Apr 3, 2015

The "Death" of Cinema?

Stills from Adieu au langage (2014)
Susan Sontag proclaims the “death” or “decay” of cinema and cinephilia in her 1996 essay “The Decay of Cinema.” She longs for a “golden age” of 1960’s/1970’s cinema in which “there were new masterpieces every month” and describes a new Hollywood that is driven by box-office sales, turnaround times, and the star system. Yet, she ends on what could be read as a hopeful note— “If cinema can be resurrected, it will only be through the birth of a new kind of cine-love.” Manohla Dargis picks up on this “new kind of cine-love” a decade later in her essay “Floating in the Digital Experience.” Whether contemporary films are subpar or inferior to film history’s so-called golden ages is a question only time will answer, however, Dargis points us to a new age in the love of cinema— one that is based in technology and spectatorship. She describes her and her fellow audience’s engrossment while watching Avatar (2009) in 3D or The Dark Knight (2008) in IMAX pointing out that James Cameron storytelling abilities are essentially old-fashioned. He is clearly not revolutionizing film narrative or structure in the ways filmmakers were in Sontag’s Golden 60’s/70’s, but he is introducing us to a new way of watching movies and a new way of loving movies. And although it would not be difficult to argue that Hollywood has adopted 3D as a gimmicky device to keep the dollars flowing in, there are also filmmakers who have adopted it to experiment with a new type of film art (e.g. Godard’s Adieu au langage.) Just earlier this year Sundance Film Festival debuted a series of virtual reality films in their New Frontier exhibit which undoubtedly challenges our entire understanding on not only how we view a film, but how we interact with it. Learn about Sundance's New Frontier (here) & (here)

Wall Street Journal reporter Evelyn M. Rusli watches a virtual-reality clip from the movie Wild (2014). Reuters

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